Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Victoria’s Children, Part 7: Arthur

It’s often said that the middle children in families tend to get lost in…well, the middle. But Prince Arthur, seventh of Victoria’s nine children, somehow managed to avoid that fate. In fact, the Queen frequently called him her favorite child (that's her with baby Arthur at right.)

So what earned Arthur his Most Favored Child status?

Prince Arthur William Patrick Albert was born on May 1, 1850, at Buckingham Palace. As he shared his birthday with Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington, who by now had reached mythic status as the victor of the Battle of Waterloo, the Duke was asked to be one of his godfathers and lent the new royal baby his name (that's the old Iron Duke giving his namesake a first birthday present below). The Queen seemed to dote on this well-behaved, easy-going child from the start. She “adored little Arthur from the day of his birth”--unusual, for she was not fond of infants; he was her “precious love” who “has never given us a day’s sorrow or trouble” and was “dearer than any of the others put together” (phew!) Young Arthur seems to have shown up well compared to his two older brothers, Bertie and Alfred, which might be the source of his mother’s doting upon him: raised as an only child (her half-brother was much older) she’d had no experience with the occasional boisterousness of some boys…and Bertie and Affie could be boisterous!

Arthur was tutored at home—no school for Victoria’s children, thank you very much—and seemed to have borne well his mother’s restrictions and demands (no fraternizing with Eton boys while at Windsor, rooms must be kept no warmer than 60°). He was delighted to take up the career in the Army that had been chosen for him from early childhood (another tie to his godfatherly namesake) and entered the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich in 1866, at age 16. He acquitted himself creditably during his training and eventually settled into the famous Rifle Brigade, of which the Duke of Wellington and then his father, Prince Albert, was Commander-in-Chief. In the early years of his career he saw service in South Africa, Canada (where he was made a Chief of the Six Nations by the Iroquois), and Ireland.

The Queen made him Duke of Connaught and Strathern in 1874, and was delighted when he married Princess Louise of Prussia in 1879. Their marriage was a happy one, and produced three children: Margaret (later Crown Princess of Sweden), Arthur, and Patricia. In his later years, and especially after his wife’s death in 1917, he was close to Leonie Leslie, aunt of Winston Churchill.

Arthur continued to perform both his army and royal duties, was made a Field Marshal (though he was disappointed never to become Commander-in-Chief of the Army as his mother hoped he would) and in 1911 became Viceroy of Canada, the only member of the royal family to have served thus. After his return from Canada (where he was quite popular and well-liked) he didn’t hold any further official positions but continued his ceremonial and advisory duties right up to World War II, dying in 1942 at age 91. Not a bad life, when you consider it.


Ladybrinx said...

Interesting...I just watched the movie "Young Victoria" the other day which of course was about Queen Victoria and her coronation and eventual marriage to Prince Albert. I'm enjoying all the tidbits of info about her life and times.

Marissa Doyle said...

We talked about Young Victoria last year, Ladybrinx--here a link if you're interested: http://nineteenteen.blogspot.com/2010/01/nineteenteen-goes-to-movies-young.html